Tips on choosing the best dance classes for your dance Child!

By Danielle Pierce-Master, MA Dance / Edited by Samantha BelleroseB.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

As an adult who has built a career in the dance field, I’ve always taken as many dance classes as my schedule and budget allowed. Schedule and budget are just two factors in the decision-making process of how many or which dance classes your child should take. 

Dance can be an activity that your child enjoys once per week for fun and exercise, or it can quickly become all-consuming. I began as a dancer in a ballet, tap, and jazz class one day per week each. By the time I was a high schooler, I was often dropped at the dance studio for a 4 pm start and didn’t go home until 8 or 9. While this was exactly what I wanted and my family was able to make it work, it is not the right choice for every family. 

As a mom of a kindergartner who is currently enjoying a ballet/tap combination class, I’m trying to stay open to following my daughter’s lead when it comes to after-school activities; I want to allow her to explore her interests and also avoid over-scheduling her. It is a dance in itself and it looks different for every family. Read on for important things to consider as you choose your child’s dance course load.

Important Factors to Consider  

  1. Child’s Age and Dance Studio’s Philosophy
  2. Child’s Temperament
  3. Child’s Commitment to Dance and Overall Goals
  4. Child’s Commitment to Other Activities
  5. Child’s Homework
  6. Commute
  7. Schedule of Classes Available
  8. Financial Obligations
  9. Family Dynamics
  10. The Importance of Rest
  11. Overall Cost/Benefit Analysis

What is the Right Age to Start Dancing?

While approaches to curriculum vary between institutions and contexts (studio, conservatory, etc), children’s attention spans generally increase with age. Young children need to play and specializing in a specific activity too early can lead to burnout and injury. 

Dance class is a wonderful learning opportunity for children, with some programs starting at 18 months, or younger. Preschool dance classes are a time for playful exploration and discovery, with formal study beginning in first grade.

Some might contend that when children enter first grade it is best that they take ballet, tap, jazz, and acro once a week each. Some might suggest that two ballet classes are all they need, and other styles should be added later when a solid ballet foundation has been established, and others might suggest that one two-hour modern dance class per week is all a dancer needs. For more information you can check out our articles on the topic:

What is the best age to start dancing? – Real Answers for Parents!
How many dance classes should my 5 year old take?
What age is too late to start dancing?
How an Early Introduction to Ballet Lessons Benefit Children

Deven Shearer, director of School of Dance Arts in Florence, South Carolina, begins her first and second-grade students in forty-five-minute classes in a variety of disciplines. She encourages young dancers to take no more than four classes a week, and never more than two in a row. She is a proponent of open communication with families to find the right fit: “We encourage a dialogue with our parents so that their kids have a positive dance experience.”

What is Your Child’s Temperament?

Is your child the type who wants to try a new activity every five minutes? Are they swayed by what activities their friends want to do? It is hard to make progress in dance without some level of consistency and it is hard to be motivated without feeling like you are making progress. If your child is really interested in dabbling or trying out many different activities, it might be best to stick to one or two classes each week. 

What are Your Child’s Goals? How Committed to Dance are They?

How much does your child actually like dance? Do they eat, sleep, and breathe it, or are they happy with doing it sometimes for fun and exercise, or are they somewhere in the middle? All of these are valid and the dancer’s level of interest or commitment is a key factor in deciding how many classes a student should take. 

What is the dancer looking to accomplish? Is dancing on pointe a goal? That will require a significant amount of commitment to ballet studies. If a child has their eye on Broadway, they need to be well versed in ballet, tap, and jazz, as well as vocal training and acting. A dancer with the goal of enjoying an activity that helps them to be creative, strong, flexible and joyful can benefit from even just one class each week, though they will find that their skills will develop at greater speed with more frequent study.

What does it look like to balance dance with other activities?

What other activities does the dancer participate in, and what kind of commitment is involved in them? It is unrealistic to think one person can take ten dance classes per week while also participating in high-level scholastic athletics. For a younger child who might be trying a sport that has a one-day practice/one-day game time commitment, (and probably a maximum of four or five dance classes), it might be possible to still participate in both actively. On the other hand, if someone was highly active in school sports, there is no reason why they shouldn’t still take a dance class once or twice a week.

Dr. Kathryn Austin, Director of Centre for Dance and Performing Arts in Winter Garden, Florida, says that as a studio owner, she works hard to know what is going on in her community and local schools so that she can be accommodating when designing her schedule:  “band at our local high school is always a conflict on Tues/Thurs and Fri …so, I schedule more elementary, middle and recreational classes then so that I can support my dancers’ involvement in school and community. When a student shows gifts in musical theatre, I work with the parent to make sure that the student can participate in school productions and community theatre without feeling left out at the studio. It is up to the owner and teacher to create an environment of support.”

What is Your Child’s Homework Like? 

Homework might be a small factor in first or second grade, but as dancers get older they can expect that their homework load will also increase. Is your child the type of student who can sit at the table and get it done while you make dinner, or do they need supervision and constant guidance? This is important to consider in the flow of your week. Can homework get done before dance class, or does it have to wait until after? 

How Much of a Commute Can Your Family Manage?

What is the distance between school, dance, and home? How much time has to be dedicated to traveling between them all? Is there time to go home between school and dance, or do you have to go straight to the studio? How many times a week is this journey manageable? How many adults in your family are able to help facilitate this? Is there mass transit and can the dancer go on their own? 

What Are Ways to Optimize Your Child’s Dance Schedule?

It is significantly easier to manage a dance class load of more classes when there are back-to-back options. If four classes per week means two classes twice a week, that is much easier to manage than four unique drop-offs and pickups. It also allows for more flexibility with other interests. Even if you are only on the fence between one class and two, classes scheduled back to back (and bonus if siblings can be in class at the same time!) definitely make it easier to go for the second one- why not, you’re there already?!

How Many Dance Classes Can You Afford?

Well, one reason why you might choose not to add that second class is that dance classes are one of many expenses that impact a family’s budget. Dance classes, besides the lessons themselves, also call for specific clothing and typically a recital costume for each class, plus tickets for the family to see the dancer shine onstage. Every family prioritizes differently but your financial reality is certainly a relevant factor.

What are your Overall Family Dynamics?

What does dinnertime look like in your house? Are you comfortable with that occasionally being a peanut butter sandwich in the car? Is your dancer an only child, and if not, what activities do their sibling(s) do, and what kind of commitment do those require? How can all of the children thrive in their respective pursuits? Sometimes that might mean one fewer day at the studio. 

The Importance of Rest

It is important for both physical and mental health that young dancers take breaks and have a life outside of dance. Make sure to preserve downtime and not schedule something every day. The parental taxi service needs a break too!

Overall Cost/Benefit Analysis

I know I am biased, but I will certainly always extol the benefits of dance. Being part of a group, moving your body, connecting to music, I firmly believe if everyone danced the world would be a better place. But every family’s circumstances are different and each dancer has to figure out how to make dance studies work within the constructs of their family. 

A dear friend of mine has three children, and the middle one has more personality and energy in her big toe than many people I have met have in their entire bodies; she keeps her mama on her toes! She was also invited to her studio’s competition team. Her mother has decided that her daughter having a positive, expressive outlet as well as a team to be a part of far outweighs the challenges of time and cost. 

Dr. Austin notes, “Ultimately the best thing that you can do for your child is to be certain that you can support and model dedication and commitment in his or her dance education. When choosing a class schedule, consider first and foremost what you, as the provider of time, money, and transportation are willing and able to commit. Commitment and follow-through are perhaps the most important lessons a child learns from extracurricular activities.”

Ultimately, the right amount of dance classes is different for every child and every family. It is the amount that the family can afford without stress, and that the child is excited about and inspired by. You want your child to be asking, “when can I go back?”

READ MORE

Which kids dance class or style should I choose for my beginning dancer?
Ultimate Guide to the Different Dance Types, Classes & Styles!
What is the best age to start dancing? – Real Answers for Parents!
How many dance classes should my 5 year old take?
What age is too late to start dancing?
How an Early Introduction to Ballet Lessons Benefit Children

About the Author

Danielle Pierce-Master

Danielle Pierce-Master has taught dance in the New York City Metro Area since 2004, working with children from 18 months and up. She trained in Dance Pedagogy at the Creative DanceCenter in Seattle and has an MA in Dance Education from New York University. Danielle lives in Westport, Connecticut with her husband and two children.